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Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate he has made of the number of school leavers who have needed remedial training from their employer to improve literacy and numeracy levels in the last 12 months. (92909)

We do not have an estimate of the numbers of school leavers who have needed remedial training in literacy and numeracy from employers but the National Employer Skills Survey 2005 shows that, of employers who had recruited 16-year-old school leavers in the last 12 months, 11 per cent. reported problems with poor numeracy skills and 10 per cent. reported problems with poor literacy skills.

We need to do more to ensure that young people enter the workplace with good levels of literacy and numeracy. We continue to improve standards of reading, writing and mathematics in primary and secondary schools through our National Strategies. We will also be ensuring that the qualifications taken by young people in schools and colleges genuinely respond to calls from employers and others for young people and adults to have the practical, applied skills needed in modern society. Following trialling, Functional skill tests will be taken by young people as part of their GCSEs from 2009 (English and ICT) and mathematics (2010). Candidates will not be able to achieve a GCSE grade A*-C without mastering the functional element.

In the meantime, provisional GCSE results show the percentage of 15-year-old students achieving 5+A*-C including English and mathematics rose from 44.3 per cent. last year to 45.1 per cent. this year—an increase of 9.5 percentage points compared with 1997. This means around 62,000 more pupils are now achieving a good pass in English and maths than did so in 1997. Guidance issued recently by the Department for Education and Skills confirmed that local authorities and schools will from 2008 be required for the first time to set targets for the proportion of pupils achieving 5 A*-C GCSEs, including English and mathematics.